What are Dental Crowns?
Dental crowns and most types of bridges are considered to be fixed prosthetic devices. Contrary to a removable device, such as a denture, which can be removed for daily cleaning, crowns and bridges are cemented to the existing teeth or implants. They are only able to be removed by a dentist.
A crown is used to completely cover or cap a tooth which is damaged. In addition to strengthening a damaged tooth, a crown is often used to improve the appearance, shape or alignment of the tooth. Crowns can also be placed on top of an implant for a more natural tooth appearance and function. Porcelain or ceramic crowns are able to be closely matched to the color of your existing natural teeth. Other materials which can be used include gold and metal alloys, ceramic, and acrylic. Because these types of materials are typically stronger than porcelain, they are often recommended for use on the back teeth. Because it is both strong and attractive, porcelain bonded to a metal shell is commonly used for crowns.
Crowns are commonly used in the following situations:
- Bridge attachment
- Cover discolored or unattractive teeth
- Dental implant cover
- Protect weak teeth from fracturing
- Replace large fillings which do not have adequate tooth surface
- Restore fractured teeth
- Root canal treatments
The dentist may recommend a bridge for patients who are missing one or more teeth. The gaps from a missing tooth typically results in the adjacent teeth rotating or shifting into the empty spaces. This often results in a poor bite. The imbalance from missing teeth can also result in gum disease or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
A bridge spans the area where teeth are missing. They are cemented to the natural teeth or implants which surround the empty space. These teeth, which are called abutments, act as anchors for the bridge. A replacement tooth, or pontic, is connected to the crowns which are used to cover the abutments. Similar to a crown, there are various materials which can be used to create a bridge. The dentist will work with you to determine which material is the best solution based on where the missing tooth is located, function, appearance and cost. Porcelain and ceramic bridges can be matched to the natural color of the existing teeth.
Prior to the creation of a crown or a bridge, the tooth will be ground down and reduced in size. This allows the crown or bridge to properly fit over it. Once the tooth is reduced, an impression will be taken to create a mold for the crown or bridge. If porcelain is used, the dentist will identify the correct shade for the crown or bridge to match the color of your existing teeth.
A dental lab will then use the impression to create the crown or bridge in the specified material. A temporary crown or bridge is used to cover the prepared tooth while the permanent crown or bridge is created. When the permanent crown or bridge is complete, the temporary crown or bridge is removed, and the new crown or bridge is then securely cemented over the prepared tooth.
In order to avoid damaging a new crown or bridge, patients should avoid chewing sticky, hard foods, ice and other hard objects.